A timely rant.
Pride and Prejudice: Fake News
Bikers terrorise neighbourhood. Biker gang causes chaos. Gang of bikers bring dock road to a standstill.
All recent local headlines from two of my nearest big cities.
Fake news? Not quite but certainly fake headlines to grab an already rather biased public's attention.
Read them and images of hairy leather-clad, tattooed outlaws on huge Harleys spring to mind. Vicious outlaws, weather beaten faces scowling at a cowering public.
I am in no way suggesting that there are no "outlaw" motorcyclists, not suggesting there are none who have criminal ties or intent. The media is quick to demonise the very rare instances of gang warfare, drugs and weapons involvement in the two wheeled world. Big news, be it America, Canada, Europe or Australia. Biased, maybe, but actual news concerning actual criminal events committed by motorcyclists.
Think biker and I'm sure we can all name three or four notorious clubs. The self proclaimed 1%ers, a tag readily accepted following one of the first occasions that bikers hit the news in a notorious way. Movies and TV shows such as Sons of Anarchy and Brothers in Arms feed the public perception of all bikers belonging to lawless gangs. In reality, these clubs tend to keep to themselves. They have their own runs, their own pubs and clubhouses, organise their own rallies and events.
But what about the other several million motorcycle riders who fall into the "biker" category?
There are a multitude of biker clubs out there, from veterans, disabled riders, law enforcement and military, even religious groups who use the biker scene to preach and promote their beliefs, clubs that run charities, clubs that help abused children, clubs that promote road safety. Bikers have even banded together to protect communities in times of civil unrest. The list is endless.
Whatever the image, alone or part of a club, these men and women share a common bond; they are bikers. The love of riding and sense of community brings these folk together, whether on a small weekend run or attending one of the many rallies that attract thousands without one whiff of trouble. I am proud to be one of their number.
Even amongst other motorcyclists, bikers can be prejudged. I remember turning up to instruct an advanced course. The four students, resplendent in dayglo racing leathers and gleaming sports bikes wouldn't even say hello but positively snarled at the bearded chopper riding guy in the scruffy leathers and scuffed well-worn boots...until I tied my hair back, changed into my instructor's leathers and wheeled the big tourer out, attitudes changed in an instant. Same guy but now I suited their perceptions of what a respectable motorcycle instructor should look like! Twenty grand and twenty minutes a week does not make motorcyclists into bikers!
So, about those fake headlines. Those lawless hairy tattooed thugs on snarling Harleys causing all kinds of anarchy in the UK?
Erm, not quite. Not at all. These front page articles are actually about teenage lads messing about on very small scooters and mopeds, social media bets on how many teenagers can gather on their L plated 50cc rides. There's photos and videos galore. Annoying – yes. Socially irresponsible – certainly. Illegal – apart from maybe disturbing the peace, no.
Please don't get me wrong, I am in no way sticking up for, justifying or supporting these idiots. No one should have to face a number of kids tearing around on mopeds, lock them all up and impound their machines if they're causing alarm, distress, damage or disorder. Crush the little plastic machines if they're ridden dangerously, unroadworthy or unlicensed and insured.
One thing I would ask is for the term "biker" to be removed from these articles. Misbehaved Kids terrorise neighbourhood, gangs of naughty boys cause chaos and teenagers with no road sense bring roads to standstill may not be as eye catching but certainly more accurate.
So, the next time you see a headline proclaiming "bikers" are causing mayhem, please check out the details, it's very rarely bikers, more probably just silly kids on silly mopeds and scooters – I'm prejudiced but they're rebels without a clue!